When it comes to the video messages that closed last week’s episode, I think it’s rather clear that Casey would have actually preferred for the little stringy-haired girl from The Ring to come crawling out of his iPad instead of what he got, which was Ashley, her voice dripping with flagrant signs of emotional disengagement. The guy is in a rough place right now, and though I initially expected he’d drown his shock and sorrow by cavorting with a walking Very Bad Idea like Payton, I now think he will spend the rest of his time on that island weeping into coconut fronds, an image that really only makes for good TV for about fifteen minutes or so. After that, it begins to look slightly pathetic.
This episode starts with a montage of Casey crying in the sun, crying in his bedroom, and crying in the shower before he manages to slightly pull himself together so he can join the other guys and they can communally bemoan the sh*t choices they have made when it comes to honoring the women they claim to love. Casey feels like his and Ashley’s roles have reversed and now he’s the needy one. (I’d love to inform him that the healthiest of relationships don’t usually have someone classified as The Needy One, but now seems like perhaps too cruel a time to drop this particular nugget of truth.) Dave acknowledges that he has (continually) disrespected Kate, and though I believe a teeny tiny piece of him feels regret, I do not doubt he will continue to behave in the very same selfish manner moving forward. As for the women, the only one longing for her boyfriend right now is Ashley G. The others watched their videos through a lens carved out of pure pessimism. Yes, it’s great Gavin has supposedly grown, Esonica says. But has he evolved to the place she has developmentally been for years? And Dave’s words were all kinds of lovely, Kate says, but they are also all kinds of meaningless now that Kate has seen him engaging in activities he’s boldly acknowledged will probably scar his girlfriend forever. But when it comes to Ashley H., she just seems annoyed. Casey is declaring his undying devotion to her now that he’s afraid of losing her – and she is not about being proposed to through a f*cking iPad.
Good thing those Temptresses are around to make Casey feel all better, right? Well, Payton is still there and she did not magically morph into a normal lady during the night. As Casey tells a group of girls that being on that island is a nightmare because all he wants is to be with Ashley, Payton instantly feels flabbergasted that he could possibly say such a thing. Has she not shared deep things about herself with him? Has she not made herself available to him in every possible way other than serving herself to him on a platter made out of plastic? Has she not bawled her eyes out so he would know he was worthy of her obsession? Did she not crawl into bed with him and another girl? (Wait – that was Dave.) And here is Casey honestly and directly saying that he doesn’t have romantic feelings for any of the girls in the house? Payton. Is. Pissed. Gavin is having a way easier day, probably because his sounding board is not a lunatic. Mia counsels him to use the remaining time on the island to really figure out what causes Esonica grief and she smiles at him encouragingly when he explains that he needs to start loving Esonica the way she deserves to be loved. At her own villa, Ashley H. explains to Ben what went down in the video Casey sent and they both marvel that Casey brought Ashley on this show in the first place and now has the nerve to be gutted because she’s decided she has had it with his bullsh*t. Ben is nervous Ashley will go back to Casey – it’s the easier choice for her to make – but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. Girlfriend clearly enjoys making out with Ben way too much to give this up now.
On Date Day, Casey idiotically maintains that he had to make a very tough choice: should he bring Rachel, a person who has never once caused him a millisecond of distress, or should he bring Payton, a woman who flaunts her lack of sanity with some very misplaced pride for being this f*cking nuts? The guy ended up asking Rachel, but that this was a choice he was willing to even pretend to labor over causes me all kinds of concern. Is insanity contagious? Has Casey lost all his logic through his leaky tear ducts? In any case, the date for the guys seems rather thrown together. They’re all just playing games on the lawn, but I suppose the production budget needed to be reserved for a fleet of night vision cameras. Not a ton is going on, but Rick plays nicely with Medinah, though he seems to be moving away from a romantic connection with her and back into the headspace where, for better or worse, only Ashley resides. Gavin is being silly with Mia, and Dave sits beside a smiling Toneata, but she’s not feeling so smiley on the inside. She just doesn’t understand why Dave has kissed two other girls he claimed to not even care about and he has yet to kiss her! (Apparently ass-caressing and threatening to move to her city are not enough for Toneata to feel Dave’s undying devotion. The woman would like some tongue, too.) Dave explains he’s not ready to kiss her because, if he does, that kiss will lead to all sorts of other things and then his relationship with Kate will be over. And I know you’re thinking, “Wow! Dave has decided to devote himself only to Kate!” but then Toneata asks if he thinks he’ll ever kiss her and Dave nods immediately.
The women spend the day with their dates on a boat and that means there are waves, tropical drinks, and some ass-grinding because what weekday afternoon excursion is complete without grinding one’s ass into the crotch of the man you have a crush on? Kate is with Dominique and she’s mulling over why she hasn’t allowed her attraction for him to take over, but she says making that kind of choice based only on a physical connection has often worked against her and I suppose here we have a real life human who would actually like to learn from her mistakes.
Speaking of one of Kate’s grave mistakes, let’s return to Dave! What’s that? You say the resolution Dave made to not kiss Toneata is already over? You say he caved later that same day and kissed her by the pool? You say she did not even giggle once when she looked at his man bun? I’d pretend to be shocked by any of this, but I don’t have it in me to fake it nearly as much as Toneata’s going to have to be faking it soon. Oh, I’m sorry. You say the madness isn’t close to being over? You say Dave is now thanking the universe for sending him to Temptation Island so he was able to finally locate the woman he has been searching for all of his days? What sweet sentiments for Kate to listen to on a constant and unceasing loop in her psyche until the very last second of time!
Also: Ben tells Ashley as the sun is going down that he wants to leave there with her in the end.
Also: Though perhaps it seems like hypocrisy, I do not have any of the same issues with Ashley and Ben as I have with Dave and Toneata and I think that’s probably because Ashley was talked into being on this show while I think Dave chose to go on it because he wanted license to get laid and he also probably read once that being on a reality show would eventually allow him to slip into a ton of indiscriminating girls’ DMs, which would serve as the perfect parting gift after his vacation to f*cking Fantasy Land.
As fireworks break out over the sky and Ashley and Ben smooch some more, the guys watch the display from their back patio. And there sits Casey, a man who is becoming more morose by the second. He wonders if Ashley is watching the same explosions, perhaps with another guy by her side. What he doesn’t know is that particular new guy has just told Ashley that she is, in fact, his future. Good lord, this show is evil.
When the girls return from their dates, Kate finds her bed has been covered with flowers in what I now like to refer to as “Deac-style” because the petals have been organized by color and their presence is both sweet and patently unnecessary. She also finds a note Dominique wrote her in which he scrawled that he hearts her. Her boyfriend never once sent her flowers! There’s a chance these petals, combined with his earlier gift of chocolate kisses, will finally earn Dominique an actual kiss, and that kiss may be going down the very same night Esonica allows Kareem to come in her bed and cuddle. The cuddling looks way better to me than the toga party happening at the guys’ house. (Again, why must every party be given a theme? And if a theme is mandatory, can that theme not be something more original? Can’t they throw a Sheer Desperation party where they all wear thin chiffon and grind against one another in the kitchen or perhaps they could throw a Damaged Id fiesta where they drink Mind Eraser shots and then grind against one another in the kitchen. All I’m saying is there’s room here for some originality.) While Toneata licks Dave’s face (She LICKED HIS F*CKING FACE, you guys. And she, of course, did it in the kitchen.), Gavin reclines outside and tells Mia that he has definitely considered getting together with her, but Mia is unmoved because Gavin clearly views Mia as his second choice since he wants Esonica back. Good for Mia for not crumbling! I can only imagine how excruciating the lack of options and the unrelenting boredom must eventually be during this kind of island experiment and how that boredom probably causes some to make choices they wouldn’t make if they only had a nice book they could read instead of going down on some guy they wouldn’t look at twice on the mainland.
Also: Dave and Toneata get into bed and he’s fully naked.
Also: Toneata, who once stared at Kate for five minutes from across a pool during the first date selection, is utterly certain that what she and Dave have shared for almost THREE WHOLE WEEKS has to be way more profound than what Kate and Dave – two adults who live together – can possibly share.
Also: Nobody should even attempt to claim that I am too hard on these reality show participants, not when the music that production chose for the scene of Dave and Toneata rubbing their nether regions together includes the repeated lyric “We’re a hot mess.” I’m obviously reacting the way those who made the show want me to react and anyone who thinks I’m being too harsh can suck it. As I mentioned to a contestant from last season who survived televised heartbreak with grace and class, I am tasked with recapping what I see. If Dave acted like an angel, I’d discuss his shiny halo. If Payton ever made even a bit of sense, I’d mention that instead of reporting that this is a woman who claims she went on a reality show where men tend to cheat so she would have the chance to meet a man who is not an assh*le. I ask you, my friends: are my hands not tied here?
Now, I would love to talk about the shininess of Casey’s halo, but how can I possibly when he admits to some of the shocked Temptresses that he felt absolutely fine bringing Ashley on Temptation Island even though he was pretty sure going there would probably lead to her crying for a week straight? How about when he compares her to a rat who has finally chewed its way out of a box? How about when he says he will use his sales techniques to manipulate Ashley into coming back to him after this show is over if that kind of manipulation is what it takes? Listen: I don’t care if Ashley ends up with Ben at the end of this show. I don’t care if Deac rises like a phoenix out of a volcano and tries to talk Ashley into getting a tattoo of a little deac on her always-exposed ass. I don’t care if Ashley becomes a shut-in who hoards canned goods and only twerks against piles of stacked ramen. The only thing I do care about is that she refuses to allow herself to end up with a man who compares her to a captured rodent. I’m just a feminist like that.
And now it’s Bonfire time and Esonica looks amazing in a pretty striped outfit. She’s admitting to herself that the foundation she and Gavin had may not have been as solid as she once pretended it was and I think she’s actually hoping to see footage of him doing something terrible so she feels free to officially move beyond the guy. But before anyone sees any footage, Mark lets the girls know that this will be the last Bonfire they attend as a group. The next Bonfire they face will be the one where they are reunited with their boyfriends. Once that news sinks in, Mark plays footage for Esonica and she sees Gavin tell Mia that he sometimes considers a relationship with her. Now, what I see here when I stare at this clip is a man dispassionately tossing out an idea and a woman appearing lukewarm about all of it. But Esonica, who is obviously way more invested than I am, takes the clip more seriously. Still, she remains as outwardly calm as she always does. Ashley H. is up next and she watches Casey in all his awkward glory plan out the very best ways to orchestrate Ashley’s emotions so she will feel broken enough to stay with him. Ashley is, as she should be, fully appalled. Kate, who has been put through more on this island than any decent person should ever be put through, watches Dave kiss Toneata, watches Toneata muse about how their relationship is “right” and then watches as Dave and Toneata breathe heavily about how good whatever is going on underneath those blankets is making them feel. Kate is composed at this point, but when she says she wishes Dave could have loved her enough to exert some willpower, Mark – who has been married for a very long time – tells her people in love do not actually require willpower.
“What do you want?” Mark asks Kate.
“Happiness,” she responds, though I personally would have been far more specific with my answer and included some vivid imagery of a rusty stake piercing Dave’s scrotum in the moonlight.
And now it’s Ashley G.’s turn, and she should once again be thanking her lucky f*cking stars that Rick hasn’t begged production to bring in a shaman so some combination of sage and an incantation will allow him to forget Ashley’s name. Still, Ashley manages to feel slighted by the footage she does see, which is Rick talking about how only his girlfriend should expect his full attention and validation. Everything he says should offer Ashley comfort, but reading imaginary subtext leads to all sorts of unnecessary conflict and I just do not believe at this point that anything fuels Ashley more than her need for conflict and validation. Mark calls her on the way she misreads the clip and she folds and admits he’s right, but unless Mark follows this couple home and camps out in their pantry so he can be put to use whenever Rick and Ashley bicker, I think this is a problem that will only fester.
The guys arrive at the Bonfire next and though Casey fully expects to see even worse sh*t than he saw last week, it’s Rick who goes first. And what he sees is a digital joy because Ashley is not fondling KB’s d*ck! She’s not even sitting with KB! It’s some other guy she’s with and their conversation is all about how she hopes they can keep their relationship within the parameters of a friendship. Rick is smiling and though I’m pretty sure Medinah is about to get dumped, I also think she will be just fine. Dave is next and his solemn glances of faux regret are causing me to feel seriously nauseated. I kind of wish he had way harder footage to sit through, but all he sees is Ashley H. telling Kate that Dominique so clearly adores her. Looking sweaty, Dave tells Mark that he doesn’t really know how to take the clip because Kate appears to be “all over the place,” but Mark has that woman’s back and responds that he doesn’t perceive Kate as being anything but composed. Dave then gets a little snippy because Mark would like him to express his feelings about his actual girlfriend after he told some other blonde he’s willing to relocate for her, and Dave is quick to maintain that he loves Kate more than anyone, regardless of how things turn out – as though things just f*cking “turn out” a certain way, as though humans don’t sometimes have a hand in all of it. And still Mark doubles down because he wants Dave to see that the way he speaks of Kate does not at all match up with his actions on that island, but unfortunately Dave is intent about revealing himself to be a dead-eyed sociopath and he’s clearly just counting the seconds until he and Toneata can reunite so they can tell one another that they’re both really pretty again.
Gavin sees a clip of Esonica and Kareem hanging out in her room, and though they are clothed, he is hurt. He hasn’t had any woman in his room because he hoped making that choice would showcase his loyalty to his girlfriend and now he feels like he’s lost Esonica and it’s too late to fix anything. Mark jumps right in to caution Gavin that it’s not over until it’s over – and speaking of over, let’s watch Casey take several traumatizing glances at footage of Ashley and her new soul mate! Casey watches and grimaces with such exaggeration that it’s as though he’s a mime trapped in a support group. He sees Ashley and Ben kiss and he appears to want to toss himself into the fire. His sadness is tough to watch – but then I think about how he was willing to let Ashley bawl her eyes out for as long as she had to for him to have this televised opportunity and I realize I find it kind of hard to care that much about Casey’s feelings.
When the women return to their villa, the guys greet them with dinner, Ben and Ashley share several more kisses, and Esonica allows Kareem back into her room where things may be happening beneath some blankets. And somewhere several bluffs over, Casey is preparing what will likely be a faulty strategy for winning back his girl and Dave, though almost certainly still annoyed that Mark had the nerve to questioned his actions and his motives, drowns whatever is left of his conscience in a vapid connection with a girl, but at least that girl is a model.
In other words, things are exactly where you’d expect they’d be on week eight of Temptation Island.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com. Her twitter is @nell_kalter.